The U.S. charged 530 people with targeting homeowners in mortgage schemes that cost the victims more than $1 billion, Attorney General Eric Holder said today.
More than 73,000 homeowners around the country were affected, the Justice Department said in a statement. The cases, brought over the past year, included “foreclosure rescue schemes” that take advantage of those who have fallen behind on payments, according to the statement.
“These comprehensive efforts represent an historic, government-wide commitment to eradicating mortgage fraud and related offenses across the country,” Holder said at a news conference in Washington.
Frauds involving mortgages expanded after the 2008 housing collapse, prompting federal and state law enforcement officials to increasingly focus on the crimes.
Many of the scams were aimed at homeowners looking to participate in foreclosure relief programs created by President Barack Obama’s administration, Shaun Donovan, the Housing and Urban Development Department secretary, said.
“The increase in the efforts that we have, unfortunately, mean that you have more scam artists that are trying to take advantage of families,” Donovan said at the news conference.
Typical schemes involved promises to homeowners that foreclosures could be prevented by payment of a fee, according to the statement. As part of the scams, “investors” purchase the mortgage or the titles of homes are transferred to those taking part in the fraud, resulting in homeowners losing their property, the department said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation led the crackdown, which was done in coordination with the Justice Department, HUD and Federal Trade Commission, Holder said. The initiative led to 285 federal criminal indictments and another 110 federal civil cases, the department said.